The chiseling economy: Some “worker” statistics

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:59 am by George Smith

Returning to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk global “human intelligence task” job market, I point to a company blog entry here, one in which a “master worker” claims 180,000 completed jobs in a period approximating three years. That’s some statistic. Why would you believe it?

So let’s do some math.

180,000 / 1095 days in three years = 164.4 “human intelligence tasks”/per day with no holidays.

Let’s assume an eight hour day with no breaks. You can eat at your Internet connection and hold it until you break off.

164.4 / 8 = 20.5 “human intelligence tasks” per hour, every day of the year, for three years.

Or about one every three minutes.

The “master worker” talks about work from “top academic institutions.”

This would be behavioral, psychology and social science studies and questionnaires. Most of them take well over five minutes. On average, my experience has been fifteen to half an hour, not counting the time spent parsing the listings for them.

“I enjoy [the] research surveys … which are often amongst the highest paying HITs in the marketplace,” the worker writes for Amazon’s blog.

Many Mechanical Turk jobs are audio transcriptions of corporate meetings crowd-sourced through another business that uses Mechanical Turk as a front-end. None of these transcriptions are under three minutes in length.

It is not humanly possible to transcribe an audio presentation, by hand, that’s more than three minutes in less than three minutes.

Many Mechanical Turk tasks ask for workers to provide original written articles, free of mistakes, anywhere in length from 150 to 700 words at an average compensation of a tenth of a penny a work, or less.

It is not humanly possible for even the best writers in the world to work at a pace that would produce such pieces tens of thousands of time in just over three minutes/copy. Not possible, without resorting to repetition and automation used by spammers.

You can, of course, read the Amazon blog post for yourself to get a feeling for the “truthiness” of it. The blog does not update frequently, perhaps an indication that even its masters don’t have particularly high regard for anything in it.

The concept of cooked statistics comes to mind.

A recent article on Amazon hiring more warehouse workers, stimulated by the President’s speech — this week — at one of it’s sweatshop order fulfillment centers in Chatanooga:

On Tuesday, President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy… from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have good jobs …

But as The New York Times reported, “the White House came under fire because many Amazon jobs pay only $11 an hour, and the pace of the work in these warehouses has been described as exhausting.”

Amazon is a great example of how the new economy has created a crisis in good jobs, in which most of the jobs being created are low-wage: a highly profitable information technology firm that drives local stores out of business while paying low wages to its non-union workers.

Nothing new here. Jeff Bezos’ vision is straight from beggar thy neighbor, to out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart, in everything from making work not pay to laundering profits overseas to avoid paying taxes.

(At Huffington Post. No link, malicious web design tricks including the infinite download.)

Infamous Jeff Bezos quote, via sharing economy guru Tom Friedman:

I’VE spent the last week traveling to two of America’s greatest innovation hubs — Silicon Valley and Seattle — and the trip left me feeling a combination of exhilaration and dread. The excitement comes from not only seeing the stunning amount of innovation emerging from the ground up, but from seeing the new tools coming on stream that are, as Amazon.com’s founder, Jeff Bezos, put it to me, “eliminating all the gatekeepers??? — making it easier and cheaper than ever to publish your own book, start your own company and chase your own dream. Never have individuals been more empowered, and we’re still just at the start of this trend.

“I see the elimination of gatekeepers everywhere,??? said Bezos …

Amount of money Amazon holds offshore to avoid taxation: $1500 million.

Number of Amazon tax haven subsidiaries: 2

Location of shell company/subsidiaries: Luxembourg

Source, Offshore Shell Games, PIRG

Jeff Bezos, Amazon and the chiseling economy — from the archives.

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